The three seats opening are currently held by Carolina Johnson (not running for reelection), Lori Fontanes (incumbent, on the ballot but no longer actively campaigning) and Nathan. Four candidates are in the race – Nathan, Lori Fontanes (incumbent), Jamie Jensen (challenger) and Keith Cunningham (challenger).
Your Name: Josh Nathan
Running for: Rye City Council
MyRye.com: Why are you running for Rye City Council?
Nathan: Rye is a fantastic place to call home. I’m in my second year of service on the Council (I was elected to fill a vacancy) and I am running for reelection for many of the same reasons I ran originally: to take care of what we have in Rye and make sure it endures, to ensure Rye City government is a welcome partner for all the organizations in our community and a responsive advocate for our residents, and to continue to prioritize and address key infrastructure, quality of life, and environmental matters (including flood mitigation and storm resilience) in a way that enables the many good facets of Rye to flourish. I am keenly aware of these issues both as a longtime resident, nearly 23 years, and from my work on the City Council (including as liaison to the Boat Basin, Library, Landmarks Committee, and Zoning Board), the Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery NY Rising Community Reconstruction Program Planning Committee for Rye, and my nine years of service on the Board of Education, including three terms as president. I was asked to run for Council because of my demonstrated commitment to transparency, good governance, and listening to the community at large. I look forward to continuing on the Council to support our vibrant community and addressing challenges and opportunities in a fiscally responsible manner.
Why are you running for Rye City Council now?
Nathan: I am an incumbent serving since December of 2021 following the special election to fill a vacancy. I want to make sure we protect what we have in Rye, to make sure it endures and fully serves all of Rye’s residents. Right now, that means: (1) addressing flooding and quality of life for everyone’s wellbeing, (2) always being prepared to listen to multiple interest groups and consider multiple points of view when deliberating policy, budget, and other matters before the Council, and (3) prioritizing good governance and fiscal responsibility in Council actions. These have been my priorities as a Council Member to date, and key priorities in my prior volunteer service for Rye (the Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery NYRCR Planning Committee for Rye, the Rye City Board of Education).
What is your party affiliation?
What are the three biggest opportunities / challenges facing the City of Rye over the next 3-5 years?
- Flooding and Environmental Challenges. We must continue to address flooding and environmental challenges. We regularly face severe weather, leading to flooding, downed trees, and power outages. As a Council we have taken positive steps. We need to continue to prioritize this.
- Planning and Infrastructure Needs/Quality of Life. We need to set strategic priorities and engage in comprehensive planning (our master plan is out of date) in an open and collaborative manner with active community participation (we have a lot of talent and smarts in Rye). We need to repair roads and sewers, maintain parkland and trees. We need to do so in a manner that supports and enhances the quality of life we enjoy in Rye. This means prioritizing the projects that yield the greatest positive impact.
- Good Governance/Fiscal Discipline. It’s how we can get good things done well. My commitment to transparency and listening to the community at large has been unwavering since I was elected to the City Council and has been demonstrated in my service to Rye since 2003 when I was first elected to the Board of Education. The Council must always be prepared to listen to multiple interest groups and consider multiple points of view when deliberating policy and legislation, new initiatives, and budget. This goes hand in hand with responsibly managing our budget and supporting our City staff in obtaining grants for infrastructure and meaningful initiatives.
What is new about these opportunities / challenges since the last election cycle?
- Flooding and Environmental Challenges. Regarding flooding we have brought in experts in engineering, lobbying and grant writing to focus on upstream projects outside of Rye that impact Indian Village, the downtown, and the neighborhoods along the Blind Brook. We need to work on what can be done inside our City that Rye can control. The Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery NYRCR Planning Committee for Rye, on which I served, identified 18 flood mitigation/storm response projects, including over a dozen that are within Rye City. We need to work with our professionals to update that list and prioritize internal projects. We also need to look at other aspects of severe weather, e.g., the risk to power and communications services and the impact of extreme heat.
- Planning and Infrastructure Needs/Quality of Life. The City Council passed a series of new and amended laws in the past 2 years to address quality of life issues (restrictions on development of steep slopes, flag lots, tree removal, rock chipping/blasting, and leaf blowers as well as new review standards for the Board of Architectural Review). We need to look at each of these laws in 2024 and see how they are achieving the results the community hoped for and whether they need adjustment if we see any unintended consequences or unexpected burdens on private property owners. With respect to rock chipping/blasting, I believe the law needs to be improved to address noise (the technology is available), and notice (we should ensure neighbors know specifically when these projects will take place so they can plan accordingly). With leaf blowers, there are improvements in technology that we need to monitor as they may offer better solutions to the noise issue we are seeking to address. That said, what is missing in all of this is comprehensive planning. Our master plan is from 1985, we need to revisit it and engage in the collaborative work of agreeing on key values and doing the analysis and setting strategic priorities that will serve this community for the decades ahead. All of this ties in to how we address and prioritize infrastructure needs.
- Good Governance/Fiscal Discipline. Now, more than ever, we must commit to good governance. This goes hand in hand with working with our City staff, our many volunteer boards and commissions, and entities within and beyond Rye. It also goes hand in hand with fiscal discipline. To that end, we must continue to support City staff, which has proven very adept at identifying and obtaining grants for the City’s infrastructure needs.
What are the three flood mitigation measures the City should undertake with the greatest cost/benefit?
- Storm Water and Sewage. Continue our work on the City’s storm water and sewage system. This is something our Department of Public Works has been doing and we must continue to support. It yields tangible positive results.
- Address opportunities we can control within Rye. Work with our engineering consultants on what can be done in Rye that isn’t contingent on the agreement of other communities. The Report by the Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery NYRCR Planning Committee for Rye identified over a dozen flood mitigation/storm response projects that are within Rye City. Our engineers, who were involved in that report, should update this analysis and help us prioritize those projects. (The upstream mitigation efforts should continue notwithstanding contingencies we don’t control.)
- Comprehensive Planning (at least targeted planning). We need to engage in comprehensive planning (our Master Plan is outdated), at least with respect to flood mitigation and storm resiliency. There is no single solution, but there are many coordinated actions that can improve our situation with respect to flood and storm water (as well as power outages, heat, wind, and other issues).
Should Rye Recreation’s Nursery Field be considered as a potential location for a turf athletic field, yes or no?
Nathan: Nursery Field should be among a number of options considered for improving field space for Rye youth athletics. That said, Nursery Field became the focus for a new turf field years before Hurricane Ida and Tropical Storm Henri. As a Council, we should be looking at athletic field improvement opportunities with that recent and devastating experience in mind. We could be tasking the flood mitigation engineering firm we have already engaged, to assist in bringing the analysis of several potential field sites up to date. It would be better to consider sites and options based on our current flooding/weather outlook before continuing to spend significant taxpayer money developing a plan for one site-specific synthetic turf field based on pre-Ida/Henri analysis.
Should Rye have more turf athletic fields, yes or no?
Nathan: There is a high demand for athletic playing fields, and we should be looking at whether we can increase their number and how best to improve access and usability. What these fields should be made of is site specific. When I was on the Board of Education we worked successfully with the community to put a synthetic turf field in the Rye High School stadium. We considered other locations for synthetic turf fields, and, for a variety of site and fiscal reasons, we did not install more. Since then, there have been a lot of developments in turf fields, from synthetic to hybrid to natural. What is best is site specific.
What are the three biggest areas for cost containment with the City of Rye over the next 3-5 years?
- Grants. The City Staff and Council have stepped up our grant writing capacity by investing in staff resources and using consultants. This is promising and has already brought in substantial funds for important infrastructure projects.
- Shared Resources. Shared resources, shared services, and partnerships. We need to keep I mind that the Rye City taxpayer funds our city, our schools, our county, and multiple nonprofit organizations. When we allocate our resources, we should be doing so in a manner that offers the biggest the bang for the buck, avoids overlapping spends, and leverages our taxpayers’ funds in coordination with the County, the two school districts, and the many nonprofits.
- Litigation Spending. We need to seriously consider the number of non-routine litigations the City is involved in. Litigation can be critical to protecting our interests, often we are left with no choice, but we need to take a hard look at whether some of these lawsuits could have been avoided and what other ways to address major disagreements might serve us better.
- Open Discourse. In our operations and when planning infrastructure, environmental, and other capital improvements, planning the financing goes hand in hand with prioritizing. This requires constant open discourse for the community to see and participate in.
Please Answer the following questions Yes or No:
|Issue||Yes or No||More|
|Rye City is prepared for the next “100 year” flood.||No||Progress is being made but there is a tremendous amount to do; engineering, grant writing, and lobbying consultants were onboarded in the last 2 years and have been focused primarily on upstream projects outside of Rye that impact Indian Village, the downtown, and the neighborhoods along the Blind Brook; we also need to prioritize what we can do within Rye; the risks to life and property from weather and power outages are unacceptable. This needs to be a continuing priority.|
|Rye City should update its Master Plan.||Yes||Rye’s masterplan is from 1985; our population has changed, our environment has changed, the demands on our resources have changed; the current plan is not serving us; comprehensive planning will support good decision making that serves the community at large, is responsive to quality-of-life issues, and is fiscally responsible.|
|Rye City should have additional restrictions on residential development.||–||We need to take care to avoid Rye becoming too dense with development, but we don’t want regulations that prevent positive improvement; to this end we need to: (1) commit to comprehensive planning, (2) look at the impact of the restriction put in place over the last two years and evaluate if they are achieving the results the community hoped for and whether they are having any unintended consequences, and (3) look at what works and what doesn’t in our code. We need more public engagement on this.|
|Rye City should be more pedestrian and bike friendly.||Yes||The City has done a lot to improve pedestrian safety over the last 20 years. I see people enjoying our walking, running, and biking areas daily. The sidewalk installation on Forest Avenue will be a further improvement. This should continue to be a priority in our planning.|
|I voted for (or would have voted for) the recently passed tree law.||Yes||I voted for the law, though I committed, as I believe did the full Council, to revisit it in 14 months to see how it’s working and whether it needs modification. I would have preferred a law focusing on perimeter trees, but let’s stick to our commitment to review how it’s working.|
|The City should either find a way to enforce the leaf blower law or eliminate it.||–||We should enforce the laws we pass. Here the key issue is seeing at what point technology provides a good alternative to gas-powered blowers. At that time, we should revisit the law.|
|Landscapers should be registered with the City so practices such as leaf blowers can be more closely controlled.||No||The City Council considered this and determined that such would be overly burdensome to landscapers as well as to City staff and would not meaningfully aid in reducing violations of the ordinance.|
|Rye Playland will be in good hands with Standard Amusements.||–||We don’t know yet, I hope so as they have a very long lease. We need to have a seat at the table with the County in so much as we need to hold Standard Amusements accountable to be a good neighbor. Right now we are in litigation with Standard and the County over Playland, so developing a collaborative relationship is challenging.|
|Do you support the raising of the Pride flag on City flagpoles?||Yes||Rye’s LGBTQ+ community should feel the same sense of home and belonging so many here enjoy, particularly given the adversity they continue to encounter beyond Rye. We support inclusiveness in our schools, we should do so in our community at large.|
|The current road conditions in Rye are acceptable.||–||Rye has implemented a sound paving plan designed to bring our roads into better condition overall despite the disruption by utilities. Improving road conditions needs to remain a priority.|
|Rye City needs to reduce its deer population by active management that might include sharp shooters or bow hunting||–||We have not reviewed an assessment of the situation during my time on the Council. Managing our relationship with deer and other wildlife requires due care. I’d like to better understand the real needs and then consider any appropriate best practices.|
|Should Rye have its own designated, year-round off-leash dog park (similar to what Port Chester has)?||–||I’m open to the idea, it’s really a question of where such a park would be. We have limited recreational space. Dog owners have AM hours in Rye Town Park and off-season hours at Playland Beach. While I’ve heard some express a desire for more hours, I would need a better sense of the demand.|
Land use and the control of development has been raised as an issue in Rye, fueled by a variety of concerns including flood control, rock chipping and the development of flag lots.
Should more be done to bring transparency and control to land use decisions in Rye? If so, what are three of the top recommendations you would make?
Nathan: Fuller community engagement is essential here. This will inform how we are applying our masterplan and how it should be updated. This will lead to better decision making. A lot of the discussion on these matters is siloed, the heavy lifting is spread among committees and citizen feedback is often taken in the limited context of a particular project. I recommend we hold a series of forums on: (i) the key issues, including evaluating the impact of land use laws we currently have, including the laws the Council passed in the last two years (BAR review, flag lots, steep slopes, tree management), (ii) how our code and processes including zoning and BAR work collectively, many folks are surprised by outcomes not realizing how different types of approvals work, and (iii) using this engagement to inform our review of our building Code and our masterplan and our commencement of comprehensive planning. This is somewhat analogous to the annual workshops on key issues we held when I was on the Rye City School Board.
What benchmarks could the City publish annually or semi-annually that could help residents understand the state of land use in the City?
Nathan: This would come out of the above engagement. Having a clear picture of our demographics, the numbers of different types of permits requested, the numbers of variances applied for and granted, the number of homes at max FAR, the number of geothermal installations, etc., would be useful in showing trends and inform planning and decision making.
What are your current views on the development plan for the former United Hospital site just over the Rye City line in Port Chester? And what should the City be doing to represent its interests?
Nathan: At the moment, the core concern is impact on traffic and traffic congestion in the Rye neighborhoods adjacent to the United Hospital site. We should have open communications with Port Chester to protect Rye’s interests. We have been engaged in litigation with Port Chester over the site’s development, which impacts having a more cooperative relationship concerning this matter.
The City’s Master Plan was written in 1985, over 35 years ago. Should the City update its Master Plan? If yes, describe the process, timeline, stakeholders, and a few of the issues and policies that might be addressed in this work.
Nathan: Yes. We should be engaged in comprehensive planning. A lot has changed in 35+ years, e.g., weather, demographics, socioeconomics. We need to be sure we have a plan that is serving our vision for the community knowing what we now know.
Tell us about you:
How would your friends and family describe you in one word?
|Select from:||Your Pick:|
|Coke or Pepsi?||Tea or coffee|
|Regular or diet?||n/a|
|Action movie or rom com?||Drama, Comedy|
|Cook, order in or eat out?||In our household we do all three in almost any given week|
|Dog, cat or no pet?||No pet, dog when I had a pet, law school housemate had a cat that decided to live in my room (we got along)|
|Balsamic vinaigrette or ranch?||Balsamic vinaigrette|
|Ruffles Original, Lay’s Barbeque or Funyuns?||Green Mountain corn chips|
|Still, sparkling or tap?||Tap|
What is the kindest thing someone has ever done for you?
Nathan: I’m fortunate to have terrific family members, mentors and teachers, and great friends (many here in Rye), who have done countless kind things for me. It inspires me to volunteer and give back.
What is your day job?
Nathan: I am an attorney. My law practice provides counsel and representation to clients in small businesses, media and entertainment, arts and education, and the nonprofit sector. I serve as outside general counsel to select nonprofit organizations. Previously I served as general counsel to WNET New York Public Media (broadcasting here on channels 13 and 21). My professional volunteer work includes:
- New York State Bar Association, Bylaws Committee
- Serving on the advisory board of the Society of American Graphic Artists
- Providing seminars to directors and executives of nonprofits via Mission Control NY
If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go and why, and who would you take with you?
Nathan: Australia with family. We haven’t been. We have cousins and friends there.
What is your favorite streaming / TV series ever?
Nathan: Hard to say “ever,” but in recent times: Modern Family, Ted Lasso
What is your favorite movie?
Nathan: It’s a Wonderful Life, To kill a Mockingbird, Dr. Strangelove
Where do you live in Rye and how many years have you lived in the City?
Nathan: Hillside Place (Rye Beach area). I have lived in Rye for nearly 23 years with my wife and our son.
What affiliations do you have with organizations in Rye?
- Rye City Council Member – December 2021 to present; liaison to Boat Basin Commission, Landmarks Advisory Committee, Rye Free Reading Room, Zoning Board of Appeals
- NAACP Port Chester/Rye Chapter – member since 2022
- Rye City Democratic Committee, District Leader since 2022
- Rye Lions Club – member since 2021
- Rye High School practice interviewer – prior to 2018
- Rye Youth Council panelist – prior to 2018
- Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery New York Rising Community Reconstruction Program, Planning Committee for City of Rye, appointed 2012-2014
- American Yacht Club – member since 2009
- Rye City School District Board of Education – 2003-2012, three terms as president, two terms as vice president, chaired the following: Audit Committee, Collective Bargaining Negotiating Team, Management Team, Policy Committee, Architect Search Committee, and Senior Administrator Search Committee
- Rye Little League – 2010 and 2011, coach
- Rye Youth Soccer – prior to 2012, coach
What are three of your favorite food takeout / delivery restaurants in or around Rye?
Nathan: During the pandemic, we were very grateful for all of the takeout and delivery options within Rye. We continue to enjoy them as well as dining on location. It’s hard to pick favorites as what we favor is the variety and high quality of Rye’s terrific restaurants, they meet any given mood and quite a range of cravings.
What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
Nathan: Getting together with family and friends, sailing, and visiting art museums and galleries. I spend a lot of time in Rye walking and meeting with residents. I very much enjoy listening to community members and being of service as a volunteer. I enjoy it as a council member, I enjoyed it as a school board member and in my other volunteer service for Rye.
Please provide links to:
Josh Nathan serves on the Rye City Council. He was elected in the November 2021 special election to fill an open seat. He serves as Council Liaison to the Boat Basin Commission, the Landmarks Advisory Committee, the Rye Free Reading Room, and the Zoning Board of Appeals. His service and record include a demonstrated commitment to listening to the community and good governance, fiscal responsibility, and addressing matters concerning neighborhood quality of life, fairness, and infrastructure and flood mitigation.
Previously Josh Nathan served on the Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery NY Rising Community Reconstruction Program Planning Committee for Rye. In 2014, the Committee, working with a world class engineering firm, analyzed the City and outlined 18 flood mitigation and storm resiliency projects for Rye. (In 2022, the City Council retained the successor to that engineering firm to update the analysis and further develop several projects concerning upstream water that floods Indian Village, the downtown, and the neighborhoods along the Blind Brook.)
For nine years, Josh Nathan served on the Rye City Board of Education. He served three terms as president and two terms as vice president and served as chair of the following: Audit Committee, Collective Bargaining Negotiating Team, Management Team, Policy Committee, Architect Search Committee, and Senior Administrator Search Committee. During his terms as president (’08-’11), Josh Nathan:
- Steered Rye schools through the great recession, supporting educational excellence while controlling taxes at below tax-cap levels before there even was a tax cap
- Successfully settled a three-year contract negotiation with the teacher’s union
- Retained architects for the Rye High School science wing who respected the beauty of Milton Road
- Resolved a more than decade-long multimillion dollar tax litigation between the City, Rye Schools, and the Osborn Home
- Designed and implemented a new strategic planning process for the Board
- Implemented new reporting, including: the semi-annual college placement report to the community, and the monthly Superintendent’s report to the Board and community on teaching and learning in Rye, and a new audit tracking system
- Exercised fiscal prudence in enhancing the educational program through careful allocation of resources to meet the needs of the community
In addition, Josh Nathan has:
- Coached Rye Youth Soccer and Rye Little League
- Volunteered as a practice interviewer for Rye High School students and as a career panelist for the Rye Youth Council
Josh Nathan is a graduate of Cornell Law School and Vassar College. His law firm provides counsel and representation to clients in small businesses, media and entertainment, arts and education, and the nonprofit sector. He serves as outside general counsel to select nonprofit organizations. Previously he served as general counsel to WNET New York Public Media. He has worked in marketing strategy and as an executive producer for documentary, music, film, health, and lifestyle programming, which earned him two Emmy Awards. He has lived in Rye with his wife and son since 2000.